His name is Greg Gadson, and he’s a Lt Col in the US Army. A graduate of West Point and an alum of the Army football team, Gadson lost both of his legs in an IED attack in Iraq back in May. One of his friends from West Point works for the Giants, and the team has adopted him as its inspirational hero as it has made an improbable run through the playoffs all the way to the big game. It sounds like a cliche, but where do we find such men as Lt Col Greg Gadson?
The Giants have selected two special leaders to be their honorary captains for the NFC Championship Game.
One of the men is very well known to the Giants and their fans: Harry Carson, the Hall of Fame linebacker who played for the team from 1976-88. Carson remains a frequent and valued presence around the Giants.
The other honorary captain has become a special figure to the players and coaches this season, but is unknown outside the immediate team family: U.S. Army Lt. Col. Greg Gadson, who lost both of his legs in May when an IED (improvised explosive device) detonated while he was serving in Iraq. Gadson spoke to the Giants prior to their victory in Washington in September and he attended their Wild Card victory at Tampa Bay two weeks ago.
Coach Tom Coughlin selected Carson and Gadson as the honorary captains for their leadership abilities and the respect they command from the players and coaches.
“I’ve always been a very strong advocate of Harry in terms of what he accomplished on the field and the quality of person he is,” Coughlin said. “Harry Carson, to me, represents the Hall of Fame, the New York Giants and New York Giants pride, and I think this is another excellent opportunity for us to express our gratification to Harry for the great player that he was and the quality of person that he is.
“Lt. Col. Greg Gadson … is a real hero. There is a real man. His sacrifice, what he has done in his young life so that we all are able to sleep under the blanket of freedom is an incredible testimony to the quality of man that he is and his belief in the values that we all aspire to believe in.”
Gadson will be on the sidelines in Phoenix for the Super Bowl, but in the video he names the place that he would rather be.
Mike Lupica has also written about Lt Col Gadson.
It was the Giants-Redskins game, in Washington, third Sunday of the season, Giants 0-2 by then. The tickets were arranged and then the Friday before the game Mike Sullivan called and asked if Gadson would be interested in addressing the team on Saturday night.
Gadson’s wife Kim drove him to the Giants’ hotel. Lt. Col. Greg Gadson, Second Battalion, 32nd Field Artillery, old outside linebacker from Army, spoke to the Giants. And just as no one knew that the Giants would begin a 10-game road winning streak the next day, just as no one knew this could ever become a Super Bowl season, no one in that room including Gadson himself knew that the soldier in the wheelchair was joining the season that night.
“I just spoke from the heart, as a soldier and as a former football player,” he said, “for about 10 or 15 minutes. I talked to them about appreciating the opportunities in their lives, how special and privileged they were, how everybody needs to understand what they truly have. And I talked to them about the power of sports in people’s lives, especially soldiers’ lives, how many times I’d watched soldiers get up in the middle of the night after a 12-hour shift if there is a chance to watch a game, or how soldiers would do anything to watch a game before they went on that kind of shift.
“I told them that of course after all the exteriors had been stripped away, they played the game for themselves. But that they had to play the game for each other. Then I talked about myself, how my old teammates came to my need, and how I was reminded again the power of a team, the emotional commitment teammates have for each other, that when a team finds a way to do things greater than they thought they could do, that they couldn’t have done individually, that a bond is formed that can live forever.
“I told them that truly great teams usually form that bond by going through something together, and how whatever they were going through at that point in the season that no success ever came easy. And finally I reminded them that nothing is promised to anybody in this life, starting with tomorrow.”
The Giants won the next day against the Redskins, and began a six-game winning streak, and began that road winning streak that now takes them on the road to Super Bowl XLII. It began Greg Gadson’s road to Lambeau, and being wheeled out by his 13-year old son Jaelen as an honorary co-captain of the Giants along with the great Harry Carson.